Note 1, Chapter 4 of the author's Christina Rossetti in Context which the University of North Carolina Press published in 1988. It appears in the Victorian web with the kind permission of the author, who of course retains copyright.
"The thematic unity of the work [of literature] is not the combination of its words and individual sentences.... Theme always transcends language.... The theme of a work is the theme of the whole utterance as a definite socio-historical act. Consequently it is inseparable from the total situation of the utterance to the same extent that it is inseparable from linguistic elements.... Further, it becomes clear that the forms of the whole, i.e., the genre forms, essentially determine theme." Thus, "the thematic unity of the work is inseparable from its primary orientation in its environment, inseparable, that is to say, from the circumstances of place and time" (Bakhtin, Formal Method in Literary Scholarship, 132).
Last modified 24 June 2007